|Senators defence prospect Jared Cowen believes he has a big opportunituy to maked the team's roster this season. He'll get started down that path at this weekend's NHL rookie tournament, which begins Saturday at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ont. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images).
The quest begins anew for Jared Cowen
And this time, the big blueliner from Allan, Sask., is determined to make it almost impossible for the Ottawa Senators to deny him a spot on their season-opening roster.
For Cowen, the journey begins Saturday at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ont., where the Senators' top prospects face off against their counterparts from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs in a National Hockey League rookie tournament.
"It'll be nice to get some games in," said Cowen, 20, the Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. "I'm pretty excited to start this year. It's pretty exciting that we'll have a younger team. I wouldn't say the culture is changing, but it's a different feel around here, for sure. It's new for everyone, so I'm pretty excited to get things going."
"I feel really good on the ice. This is the best I've felt in awhile. Any time you feel good about yourself, you play better and have confidence. Going into camp, that'll be on my side, for sure."
Cowen wrapped up his junior career with the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs back in the spring, then was almost immediately thrust into duty with the Binghamton Senators in the Calder Cup playoffs. He quickly became a workhorse for head coach Kurt Kleinendorst during the B-Sens' drive to the American Hockey League crown.
"I want to get back to where I left off in Binghamton and the Calder Cup (playoffs)," said the 6-5, 226-pound Cowen. "Once I get there, I'll just try to get back to the style I was playing, which is controlling the game, controlling my end and not making mistakes. When I was doing that, I think I was pretty good in Binghamton. If I can get back to that, I'll be pretty happy."
Much as that experience figures to help his cause. Cowen knows it'll take more than that to convince the Senators coaching staff that there's a spot for a him on a crowded Ottawa blue line that already includes six defencemen on one-way contact. There is also the matter of highly-touted Swedish prospect David Rundblad, who will push hard for an NHL job during training camp.
"Just that I can have an impact," Cowen said when asked what he needs to impress on new Senators head coach Paul MacLean and his staff. "I have to go out there and not be afraid to ameks mistakes. I want to be able to play in any (situation) in the game where they might need me. If I can do that and show them I have confidence and they get confidence in me, I think I have a very good chance."
Since his arrival in Ottawa last week, Cowen has taken part in informal skates at the Bell Sensplex with several Senators veterans and some local players from other NHL teams. It's given him a bit of a feel of where he needs to be to stick with the big club.
"I feel pretty good about myself when I match myself with the other guys on the team and other guys in the league, for that matter," he said. "I've been skating with the guys and ... I feel good when I'm out there and pretty close to playing at that pace."
Sharing the ice with him at times have been some of the Senators' veteran blueliners While Cowen soaks up any bit of advice he can get, he's also aware that he's a young guy fighting to unseat one of the incumbents for a spot on the team.
"This is my third (rookie) camp and everyone assumes you have an idea about what's going to happen," said Cowen. "When you're trying to become a pro, you have a pretty good idea of what you have to work on. You get a pretty good image of yourself and what you need to be. We talk but at the same time, they're my competition and they don't want to give me too much.
"It's not like they're going to give me the big, dark secret to help me make the team."
The Senators prospects will open rookie camp on Friday morning with an on-ice session at the Bell Sensplex. Then it's off to Oshawa for the rookie tourney, which gets underway with a Saturday matchup against the Penguins (2 p.m., Team 1200, Rogers TV). They'll also face the Blackhawks on Sunday (2 p.m., Team 1200, Rogers TV) and the host Leafs on Tuesday (7 p.m., Team 1200, Rogers TV).